EMU students recount experiences abroad

Jenna Longenecker and Jesse Weaver demonstrate flamenco dancing
during the university chapel program Dec. 15. Photo by Michael Spory.

Twenty-four Eastern Mennonite University students returned to campus obviously elated by their “life-changing” experiences of the fall semester, 2010.

“Thank you, EMU, for the incredible opportunities we had,” the group said in a university chapel service Wednesday, Dec. 14. The students spent time in Spain and Morocco through EMU’s cross-cultural study program. Moira R. Rogers, professor of language and literature at EMU, assisted by Samuel Hernandez, adjust instructor of Spanish, were group leaders.

The group read excerpts from their journals, reflected on often humorous incidents arising from language differences, did brief skits and closed with a slide show with indigenous music.

Students spent the first month living with host families in Granada, Spain, attending Spanish classes, hearing lectures and visiting historic sites.

Nicole Russer, a senior Spanish and psychology major from Royersford, Pa., spent most of the semester studying at the University of Granada. She colorfully described her “cross-cultural interaction” with the lively flea market vendors in the city. The hardest part of her time there – “finding Internet connections.”

Sara Derstine, a junior nursing major from Harleysville, Pa., reflected on her free travel time in Europe that coincided with a travel warning from the U.S. State Department of the potential of terrorist attacks. EMU implemented precautionary safeguards as the students were spread across Europe, and there were no incidents.

The “difference in attitude towards time” issue between countries was evidenced as the group described a grueling hike supposed to last an hour that actually took nearly four hours. They also noted that meal times with host families “could be anytime.”

Jesse Weaver, a junior nursing major from Royersford, Pa., and Jenna Longenecker, a sophomore Spanish major from Lancaster, Pa., delighted the audience with a flamenco dance demonstration.

In Fez, Morocco’s second largest city, most students spent five weeks “living out of suitcases,” learning basic Arabic, visiting historic places and experiencing daily life with their host families.

Ana Jimenez, a junior Spanish and international business major from Harrisonburg, described her and a fellow student’s exploits in the Sahara Desert on a non-compliant camel, complete with video clip.

Ali Eanes, a sophomore elementary education major from Scottdale, Pa., cited “the amazing hospitality and being treated like family” as a trip highlight. In Morocco, most of the women wore tunics and head scarves “out of respect for Muslim practice and culture,” she noted.

The students returned to Montoro, Spain for the last two weeks, from there visiting Cordoba and Toledo and other locales and wrapping up their course work.

EMU student groups will leave campus the second week of January 2011 for cross-cultural study in India, Guatemala/U.S.-Mexico Border and the Middle East.

Story by Jim Bishop. Jim can be reached at bishopj@emu.edu.

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